Jordan Brown, K.J. Hymes and Vincent Lee are the three freshmen Eric Musselman recruited straight out of high school this past year. At 6’11”, 6’10” and 6’8” respectively, the players add height to a Nevada team that lacked that attribute the season prior. Recruiting players straight out of high school is something Musselman rarely does, as he has only had two total true freshmen scholarship players in his previous three years in Lindsey Drew and Josh Hall. The freshmen know how high the expectations are for them this early in their collegiate careers.
“We’re supposed to come in and not act like freshmen,” Brown said. “We have to act like we’ve been here”
Brown was the biggest name out of the three as he was the 31st ranked player in the 2018 ESPN 100. He was also a McDonald’s All-American and played for the the USA Men’s Basketball U16 and U17 teams. The hype around Brown is not just high school accolades. Brown was named the Mountain West Preseason Freshman of the Year.
Hymes and Lee are not to be overlooked though. Hymes was the second-highest rated player in the state of Arizona while Lee was a three-star recruit from Texas. The three freshman forwards are looked depended upon as the future of Nevada basketball.
Hymes echoed Brown’s sentiment.
“We’ve been expected to play like we’ve been playing for multiple years,” he said.
For the 2018-19 basketball season, the Nevada roster is full of talented players with years of experience. The Pack’s starting five of Caleb and Cody Martin, Jordan Caroline, Tre’Shawn Thurman and Trey Porter all are seniors. On the bench is another senior in Corey Henson along with juniors Jazz Johnson and Nisré Zouzoua. Brown is the only one who is playing minutes this season of the freshman, but not for lack of effort from Hymes and Lee.
“The goal’s to get better everyday,” Lee said.
The first time I met them I was driving back from a run to Capriotti’s. Walking up Evans Ave, I saw around four figures look to the street with their thumbs out. Brown, Lee and Hymes are joined by fellow freshman Jalen Townsell. I turn on my hazards, slow down and try to fit as many men 6’5” and above into my car. Brown gets in the backseat and I warn him about my interior door falling off. In the short 30 second drive to their apartment complex, I see the comradery they already shared so early into knowing each other — comradery that is required for long term success.
As the university embraces the players, the players reciprocate that back. While not receiving much time on the court in games, the trio attends events on campus — such as the undie run held earlier this year.
The young group has received help from the veterans they are surrounded by on the team.
“They do everything they can to help is build and get better every single day,” Hymes said.
Perhaps the biggest influence on them is senior center Trey Porter.
“I think I’m being more of a leader,” Porter said. “If I see something, I tell them yeah that’s something you can’t really do at this level.”
With help from current stars on the team, Nevada basketball’s young core of players look to keep the future of the program on the right track.
Darion Strugs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @dstrugs.